With the advent of The Dark Knight Rises a white-knuckled six days away, Bat-fans everywhere are gobbling up every little bit of Dark Knight information they can get their hands on. Though the real-life science of psychology has touched on comic book and other fictional characters (including Batman) before, a fresh psychological evaluation of the caped crusader comes courtesy of California clinical psychologist Robin Rosenberg in her new book “What’s the Matter With Batman?: An Unauthorized Clinical Look Under the Mask of the Caped Crusader.”
Sound fun? Let’s get started.
Rather than exclusively focusing on Batman’s past and motivations, Rosenberg takes a step further back, questioning long-established character elements, odd habits, and other minutiae that may signal something that is normally only assigned to the hero’s rogues gallery – a true psychological disorder. She talks about the bat costume particularly, and its function to strike fear in the hearts of criminals, comparing it to a police officer’s uniform, reports the Huffington Post. She also highlights The Batman’s guilt over the death of his parents and his subsequent emotional detachment from his various allies. “Emotional numbing is a symptom of PTSD, and it involves a sense of detachment from others, and limited expression of emotion,” further diagnosing the Dark Knight with depression.
She also admits that Batman is a rare example of using trauma to become stronger and to help others. “I think that is part of what makes him a compelling character,” Rosenberg said. “I think like a lot of people who put their lives on the line on a daily basis — firefighters, police or the military — I think there is something captivating to that level of dedication,” though she does question whether Batman’s extreme altruism qualifies as a disorder in its own right.
Another interesting aspect to Batman’s personality is his attraction to the “bad girls” in his mythos. Though not touched upon by Rosenberg, Travis Langley of Wired opined that Batman’s favoring of villainous females over heroic ones also reveals something interesting – and unhealthy – about his psychology. “Perhaps the principle reason he won’t hang onto good girls is that a heroine is a good person and he believes that, deep down, he’s not,” he writes.
Back to Rosenberg: though she does address potential disorders Batman may suffer from, she is loathe to share her personal diagnosis in the book. “I invite people, if they know of other stories they think refute my assessment to email me,” she said. “If there is enough out there to change my assessment, I will revise it and do a second edition. So it is really analogous to a clinical assessment. Sometimes you find more about someone as you are going.”
Do you think that Batman is crazy?